Businesses, transit users and those of us who drive to work all suffered during Ottawa’s transit strike.  However, we can learn valuable lessons about business continuity planning that are equally applicable to an influenza pandemic, severe storm or even a terrorist attack.

There is a segment of our population who simply must get to work: Police officers, fire fighters, teachers, bankers, assembly line workers and those in the health care, retail and hospitality sectors. But many of us can — or could, with the right solution — work from anywhere we have access to a computer and telephone rather than sitting in traffic.

Now, before I give you the wrong impression, I do live in the real world.  Face-to-face meetings are often more desirable than teleconferences, and some companies aren’t set up to support remote workers.  Some corporate cultures are such that working from home is seen as a euphemism for a day off and having one’s buttocks pressing upon a chair for the requisite number of hours is considered far more important than actually getting work done.  As a result modern day office martyrs drag themselves to the office when ill and consider sprinkling their viral load amongst colleagues a badge of honour.

When we step back and look at the issues from a broader point of view, it’s clear that during a transit strike we would all benefit by keeping the roads clear for those who must go to work and spending our time working instead of sitting in the car.

From a business perspective, not only are there advantages during transit strikes and severe storms, but the capability also allows the organization to function despite other emergencies such as fires, building evacuations and localized power failures.  Enabling employees to work at home also helps to retain top talent by promoting a better work-life balance. And less commuters is a better thing for the environment as well.

Enabling remote work — like any other infrastructure change — does have security implications.  Some organizations already have fundamental components in place such as laptops with VPN connectivity and the ability to forward phone lines.  For those who don’t, products are available to specifically address the issues.

One company seeing increased interest in their products is Route1, the Toronto-based firm that developed the MobiKEY product. “The user simply plugs MobiKEY into any computer with Internet access and within seconds they are able to access their home or office computer through the TruOFFICE service,” explained Tanieu Tan, Director of Marketing.  “With MobiKEY, all information remains behind the corporate firewall and no footprint of the work session is left on the guest computer. In the event that there is malware on the guest computer, it can not be introduced into the corporate network, making this a very secure solution.”


The product also offers other features to facilitate secure access to Web portals or specific applications instead of an entire remote desktop environment.  These solutions also tout a high level of security by eliminating dependence upon applications on the user’s local computer.

So, whether you blamed the City, OCTranspo workers or, perhaps, both, we did get a great lesson in business continuity planning.  Acting now can better enable you and your company to cope with similar events in the future.

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